Star-Bulletin Sports

Sunday, May 12, 2002


Wahine must wait
to learn future

Oronoz finishes strong, but a
split with Tulsa puts
postseason in question

By Cindy Luis

It was Senior Day for three players on the Hawaii softball team. And the Wahine trio didn't mind sharing the spotlight with a sophomore, not when it meant that the regular season would end with a victory.

Seniors Natalie Gonzales, Stacie Hirano and Jennifer Tandarich got plenty of lei yesterday while sophomore pitcher Sheri Oronoz got a one-hit, complete-game win, 3-0. Oronoz ended a personal four-game losing streak to help Hawaii to a split of the Western Athletic Conference doubleheader with Tulsa. The Golden Hurricane won the opener 4-2.

The Wahine (35-25) and Golden Hurricane (48-16) finished tied for second in the WAC at 15-9. Both teams are hoping to see their respective names on the TV screen during today's NCAA Tournament Selection Show (3 p.m., ESPN News Dig. 225).

"The split's OK, but I told the team we needed to win three and be alone in second," Hawaii coach Bob Coolen said. "We'll see what happens. Regardless, this team has overachieved this year, especially when not having a true (pitching) ace."

When Felicity Witt remained in Australia to pitch for her national team, taking 22 wins with her, Oronoz became the ace by default. She rose to the occasion, and appeared headed toward a 20-win season; on April 13, she was 17-8.

"Then I didn't pitch too well," said Oronoz, who lost her next four starts. "But today, I wanted to do something really special for the seniors, do the best that I could. I know how much they really wanted it."

And catcher Tandarich wanted it for her batterymate.

"It was awesome the way she was pitching," said Tandarich, whose RBI single capped Hawaii's three-run second. "It gives me a lot of confidence in calling pitches when I know she'll puts the ball in spots where they aren't going to hit it."

Tulsa put just two runners on base against Oronoz, one on an error in the first and the second when Crissy Strimple singled in the second. Each was eliminated when Hawaii turned a double play, allowing Oronoz to face the minimum 27 batters.

It was the second one-hitter thrown by Oronoz this year. The other came March 7 in a 4-0 win over New Mexico State.

Hawaii picked up all of its runs in the third, using two doubles, two singles and a walk to lead in-game for the first time in four games against Tulsa. The Wahine's only other lead came at the end of Friday's second game. Stacey Porter led off with a double, followed by a single by April Crowell and a walk to Stacey Ritter.

With the bases load, Tracie Uchima's sacrifice fly to deep left brought in Porter, but pinch runner Marie Jackson was caught in a rundown off second for a double play. It was the last of four double plays in the first two innings.

Denise Dahlberg then doubled in Ritter, with Tandarich driving in Dahlberg to complete the scoring.

The day ended with the Wahine honoring their three seniors as well as the four Tulsa seniors.

"Hopefully, it's not over," Tandarich said. "We all worked so hard this year. But if it doesn't work out, I know it will work out for them next year. We have a great bunch of girls coming back."

Said second-year Tulsa coach James Pinkerton: "I'd like to think that both of us have a shot at postseason. It's out of our hands now. I think we should get some notice, having the biggest turnaround in the country. We went from 13-42 to 48-16.

"I hope we get in this time, but what I hope for the future is that we can add to the respect for the WAC, along with Hawaii and Fresno (State)."

Tulsa 4, Hawaii 2: In a repeat of Friday's second game, the contest was decided on a team's final at-bat. Only this time, it was the last at-bat belonging to the Golden Hurricane. Danielle Olsen broke a 2-2 tie by launching her first pitch off the left-field wall for a two-run, game-deciding double.

As happened Friday, the Wahine fell behind early. The Golden Hurricane scored twice in the first inning off Melissa Coogan (12-8), helped by one of Hawaii's three errors.

The Wahine picked up single runs in the third and fifth -- on RBI singles by Tandarich and Hirano -- to tie it. Coogan stayed out of trouble until the seventh, when Tulsa pinch hitter Holly Reynolds opened the inning with a single.

Two outs later, a seeing-eye single by Stacey Walkingstick rolled over the third-base bag to put runners at the corners. It took one pitch for Olsen to break the tie, bringing in Reynolds and Walkingstick with her ninth double of the season.

UH Athletics

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